Major solar farm gets go ahead on Fife farmland despite over 80 objections

A major solar farm and battery storage development has been approved on farmland near Auchtertool.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The Glenniston Solar Project has been approved. On Wednesday, Fife Council's West and Central planning councillors rubber stamped the plans for 100,000 solar panels, despite 84 public objections.

The project is a joint venture between Scottish-based renewable energy developer Locogen Ltd and Renewco Power Ltd. It will see more than 70 hectares of farmland covered in solar panels with a battery storage facility located on the southwest of the site.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The development will have the potential to generate an estimated 52.3GWh of green energy per year, equivalent to the annual demand of around 18,000 average UK homes.

The solar farm got the go-ahead despite over 80 objections (Pic: Pixabay/ jniittymaa0)The solar farm got the go-ahead despite over 80 objections (Pic: Pixabay/ jniittymaa0)
The solar farm got the go-ahead despite over 80 objections (Pic: Pixabay/ jniittymaa0)

In addition to the £50 million investment, the proposals include the offering of an annual community benefit of £600/MW of solar generation capacity, equating to around £23,400 per year for the lifetime of the project.

However, members of the public and some planning committee councillors were critical of the project.

Public objections raised concerns about the loss of agricultural land, the visual impact and/or glare from the solar panels, the impact of construction vehicles on the village, noise impacts, and concerns about the impact on local water supply.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“If we start putting demands on water supply - although Scottish Water says it sees no issue - is there not cause to do additional survey work to ensure this won’t be a problem if there is further demand on the water system?” Councillor Ian Cameron (Labour for Kirkcaldy East) asked.

However, planning officers emphasised that water supply is the responsibility of Scottish Water and not a matter for the local planning authority.

Councillor Lesley Backhouse (SNP for Burntisland, Kinghorn and Western Kirkcaldy) also raised concerns about the loss of farmland.

“It seems that quite an extensive percentage of the site is agricultural land and it concerns me given we are in need of food production,” she said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, the planning authority argued that it’s not considered to be “prime agricultural land” - meaning it’s not afforded as much protection from development.

“It is not disputed that the fields of the application site may have recently produced high crop yields, none of the application site is classified as being prime agricultural land,” the committee report stated.

Developers argue that although the land will be lost to crop production, the solar panels would be raised, allowing for the opportunity for sheep grazing to take place within the application site.

Councillor Altany Craik (Labour for Glenrothes West and Kinglassie) took issue with planning officer's interpretation of the National Planning Framework guidelines around rural developments - ultimately disagreeing with their conclusions.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The policy aims to “encourage rural economic activity, innovation and diversification" while ensuring the "distinctive character" is "safeguarded and enhanced.”

“[The proposals] feel very contrary to that," Cllr Craik said, arguing that the proposals do in fact change the character of the land. "Essentially, we’ve taken an area of rolling hills and farmland and we’ve covered them in solar panels."

Planning officers acknowledged that “there’s been some public concerns raised regarding the legitimacy” of some of the 59 supporting comments on the planning portal.

“We want to confirm at this stage that the manner in which these comments have been received and submitted is accepted,” officers said. “There were 59 supporting comments. That includes a number of representations that were submitted without comments. A similar approach was taken with some of the objections as well.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Officers continued: “A lot of [support comments] were delivered directly by the applicant to the council. These were filled in correctly by members of the public with names, addresses, email addresses, and signatures so we are prepared to accept them.”

After more than an hour of debate and discussion, the proposals were put up for approval with only Cllr Backhouse voicing formal dissent. The Glenniston Solar Project has secured grid connection for the site with Scottish Power with a connection date of April 2027.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.